Note: this situation has been resolved the satisfaction of all parties. See updates below and throughout the post. Original post left mostly intact.
The gunternet is currently exploding after blowndeadline custom and SSVi LLC posted this image on their respective Instagram pages, a screenshot of the first page of what appears to be a cease and desist letter:
SSVi, in their comments on the image (update: post deleted, screenshot here), attempts say this is Smith and Wesson trying to “decide what you, the end user, can and can’t do with their products to make them more ergonomic, fix their horrid trigger system or change any part of it to suit you and your shooting/carrying style.”
blowndeadline custom, taking a more professional stance (also deleted), says “Guess you know you’re successful when big corporations send you Xmas letters like this.” Followed by 8 crying emojis and 7 middle finger emojis.
Based on this single screenshot of the opening paragraphs of the letter, the floodgates have opened up against S&W with keyboard commandos immediately swearing that they’ll never buy another M&P and sell everything they have immediately.
However, it appears there is more to this story.
The letter, as posted by SSVi, indicates that it is addressed to Brownells, Apex Custom, DP Custom Works, Blowndeadline, and SSVi, a rogues gallery consisting of one huge general firearms accessories seller, one large aftermarket parts maker who makes most of their business off modifications to M&P guns, and three relatively tiny custom gun modifiers best known for stippling frames, cutting slides, and applying cosmetic coatings to make cool-looking guns. The fact that three relative nobodies would be named in this very official letter from Smith and Wesson makes very little sense until this screenshot emerged (it was originally linked from Facebook but I’m currently unable to find who posted) of the second page of the letter which sheds a little more light on the issue:
It would appear that these five parties were brought together over something called the “Dream Gun”, a project Brownells lead and tasked to Apex Tactical, who in turn subbed the job out to the three custom gun modifiers named in the letter:
Apex Tactical Specialties has teamed up with three of the most respected custom gun builders on a special Smith & Wesson M&P build for the Brownells Dream Guns® Project. The result of the collaboration, a one-of-a-kind M&P Pro 9mm, will be showcased in the Brownells booth (#13018) during the 2016 SHOT Show in Las Vegas.
The Brownells Dream Guns® Project was started in 2011 to help feature the wide range of parts and accessories available from Brownells that customers can use to upgrade and customize their own pistols, rifles and shotguns. To date over 100 Dream Guns® have been built and are available for review at Brownells.com.
“When Brownells asked us to participate in their Dream Guns Project by submitting a custom M&P fully equipped with Apex upgrades, we decided to take it a step further and turned to a trio of custom gun builders whose collaborations are some of the most recognized and coveted among custom firearms aficionados,” explained Scott Folk, vice president of Apex.
“To give our M&P Dream Gun its one-of-a-kind look we asked Doug Presson of DP Custom Works, Mike Sigouin of Blowndeadline Custom and Damon Young of SSVI to contribute their expertise. These three have worked together on so many guns, and their work so highly regarded, that we knew they’d be the ideal partners for our Brownells build.”
As alluded to in their letter, the reason for sending this letter three days before Christmas is to get the ball rolling and give adequate notice before Brownells exhibits this “Dream Gun”, which Smith and Wesson represents materially modifies the original firearm in such a way that it should not be represented under S&W trademarks, at the 2016 SHOT Show in three weeks.
Is Smith and Wesson trying to say you’re not allowed to modify your gun? No. They just don’t want guns that include modifications they don’t authorize being exhibited or sold bearing their trademarks.
Is Smith and Wesson trying to sue Apex or any of these smaller modifiers out of business? No.
I appreciate it takes a certain amount of moxie to strike out on your own and start a business, especially one that involves chopping and milling expensive firearms. But Smith and Wesson has a valid fiduciary duty to defend their trademarks and make it clear that this gun is in no way officially or unofficially endorsed or approved.
Misleadingly excerpting their letter and posting it on social media and casting it in a different light is dishonest.
Responding with middle finger emojis is just unprofessional.
Good luck, guys.
Update (2:30PM EST): John Johnston from Ballistic Radio is the source of the images of the full letter, reproduced here:
The full picture is both good and bad for S&W. They thoroughly explain their objection to the marketing of this gun based on trademark infringement and provide case law examples. The question is being asked why go after these guys now for doing what they’ve been doing for years, and the answer is obvious, as with all trademark or copyright infringement: the size of the damages are large enough. If someone makes, say, Star Wars morale patches that infringe on Disney’s copyrights but they’re too small to be worth suing, they can skate by. However, since this gun is going to be part of a SHOT show exhibit seen by thousands and marketed on the internet, the likelihood of confusion with S&W’s official work grows.
Unfortunately for Smith and Wesson, they are catching some well-earned heat for their demands. The first demand is that the gun not be displayed and a written promise of this fact be submitted. The second demand is to stop selling any modified S&W guns.
The third item, however, demands that they relinquish any modified S&W guns. I have no knowledge of trademark law jurisprudence, but it’s one thing to prohibit advertising or marketing something. It’s another to demand they return lawfully purchased merchandise.
Update the following day: Smith and Wesson has responded with a letter from the CEO stating that 1) they were only seeking to defend their trademarks, 2) they misunderstood the Dream Gun project, and 3) they look forward to seeing the gun at SHOT Show.
Blowndeadline, to their credit, has acted with humility and reasonableness in the wake of igniting an internet shitstorm, saying among other things, in response to a misinformed fanboy: “You obviously have no idea what you’re talking about either man. It’s been settled and all parties are satisfied. Stop beating a dead horse.”
tl;dr: Smith and Wesson sends an ill-advised Cease and Desist instead of picking up the phone and calling the companies in question. The companies receiving the C&D post part of it on Instagram instead of picking up the phone and calling the company in question, with a misleading caption. On a slow news day, haters and white knights seize upon a too-good-to-be-true (or too-bad-to-be-true, depending on point of view) story and it goes viral. The next day, the people in charge have a chat, and everything is resolved and everybody keeps doing exactly what they were going to do 48 hours earlier.
Lesson: only seeing half the story doesn’t mean there’s a story there. Sometimes getting the other half of the story means there’s nothing to see after all.
Comments on this post have been closed. If you have something further on this topic you’re dying to say, send us an email. I promise I’ll update the post here with anything useful or important. -Ben